Times-Call (Longmont)

Taxing for early childhood developmen­t proposed

- By Matthew Bennett mbennett@ prairiemou­ntainmedia.com

A local advocacy group presented to the Longmont City Council on Tuesday night about creating a special taxing district to fund early childhood developmen­t.

Although several aspects of the Early Childhood Alliance’s potential November 2023 ballot question remain unknown, such as how much the tax would generate, councilmem­bers expressed interest in securing a public-funding stream for early childhood educationa­l programs.

“I’m always skeptical of special districts,” Mayor Pro Tem Aren Rodriguez said during Tuesday’s meeting. “But, this is too important to … overlook.”

The Early Childhood Alliance is composed of residents from the St. Vrain Valley and Boulder Valley school districts and is in the process of presenting to local government­s such as Longmont in hopes of getting community buyin for its potential ballot measure.

The special district would encompass the Boulder and Weld county areas of the Boulder Valley and St. Vrain Valley school districts.

“When we started as the Longmont Early Childhood Alliance we quickly realized that this was bigger than the city of Longmont,” Matt Eldred, TLC Learning Center executive director and the Early Childhood Alliance’s spokespers­on said Tuesday. “Providers have shared stories about long waitlists, about how they don’t have enough staff, the turnover is high and inadequate compensati­on.”

Approximat­ely 20,000 children under the age of 5 live in the service area, according to the Early Childhood Alliance’s presentati­on Tuesday.

However, of those children, only 35% meet school-readiness criteria upon entering kindergart­en, according to the Alliance’s representa­tive.

Eldred said that the funding generated by the proposed tax would be funneled into early childhood programs that are already in existence.

“What we do not intend to do is to build buildings,” Eldred said.

While Colorado is in the process of rolling out its Universal Preschool program, in many

cases, it only covers up to 15 hours of free preschool per week.

“It’s a drop in the bucket,” Eldred said. “It is a great start but that is a program that is limited.”

According to Tuesday’s presentati­on, the average cost of early childcare programs is more than $21,000 annually per child.

The Longmont City Council was not asked to take a formal position concerning the proposed ballot measure during Tuesday’s meeting.

The Alliance still needs to collect a sufficient number of signatures from residents in order to make the November ballot.

Councilwom­an Shiquita Yarbrough commended Eldred and the Early Childhood Alliance for their work and hoped that any ballot measure would keep teachers in mind too.

“Making sure that they have enough time to get that mental refresh as well all need to do,” Yarbrough said. “Taking care of other people’s kids is a hard job.”

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